12 kid-friendly, non-scary Halloween happenings in Pittsburgh

This story was first published on Oct. 1, 2018. It has been updated with new events and information.

If October had team colors, they would have to be orange and black. The month is practically synonymous with Halloween. Local events prove the point with more and more thrilling, fun and exciting activities every year. We’ve gathered a dozen of the most kid-friendly Halloween events around Pittsburgh, some new and some annual favorites. Ready, set, boo!

You don’t know who you’ll scare up on the ZooBoo path at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

1. ZooBoo

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium launches October fun with the annual ZooBoo, which takes over on Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 19-26. Free with admission, kids can dress in costumes for the Halloween parade and trick-or-treat throughout the zoo. Pop into the kid-friendly Haunt Spots, find your way through the Gymkhana’s Haunted Hideaway and show off your dance skills in the Monster Mash Dance Party. Check out the Haunted House and catch a magic show performance, which are scheduled throughout the day. And don’t forget to visit with the animals, too.

Hocus Pocus
The three weird sisters of “Hocus Pocus” offer more giggles than scares.

2. Cereal Cinema: ‘Hocus Pocus’

Hello, breakfast! Row House Cinema planned a special Halloween-focused Cereal Cinema with a screening of “Hocus Pocus” on Oct. 26. The all-you-can-eat cereal bar will offer gluten-free and dairy alternatives, as well as coffee for mom and dad. The $14 ticket includes movie admission and breakfast.

The PG-rated “Hocus Pocus” is recommended for ages 10 and older. The 1993 film stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as a comic coven of witches who are released from a 300-year spell on Halloween. A group of kids must find their book of spells to save the day.

If you can’t make the Cereal Cinema screening, “Hocus Pocus” will be scheduled from Oct. 18-31. Or come in costume to the “Hocus Pocus” Halloween Party, which is planned on Oct. 24. Along with the screening, family-focused activities, popcorn and candy are included in admission.

Warning: This could be the start of a family Halloween tradition.

pumpkin paddle
The Great Pumpkin Paddle is a regatta that must be seen to be believed. Photo courtesy of West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta.

3. Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival

This free event takes over the North Shore on Oct. 19 and 20. A highlight of the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival is a type of regatta never seen on our rivers. The Great Pumpkin Paddle puts competitors in humongous carved-out pumpkin “boats” in a silly race down the Allegheny River. Dessert fans will love the Pumpkin Pie Plunge, a pie-eating contest. Kids can take a whack at the Pumpkin Pinata, a giant pumpkin filled with candy, and spend some time at the Pumpkin Decorating Station.

Trick-or-Treat at the Story Book Forest homes of Mother Goose and the Old Woman in the Shoe during HallowBoo!

4. HallowBoo!

Idlewild Park continues its top-of-the-charts family fun with HallowBoo!, running weekends through Oct. 27. Come in costume to trick-or-treat through Story Book Forest. Dance to the Jack-O-Lantern Jive and join Daniel Tiger and Katerina Kittycat in a playful show of songs and make-believe. Scream with excitement on the spinning, flying rides and calm down on the Loyalhanna Limited Railroad for a full day of amusement.

Meet Tootsie, a Eurasian Eagle Owl, at the Aviary’s Owl-o-ween celebration. Photo courtesy The National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

5. Owl-O-Ween

The National Aviary in Pittsburgh mounts its family-friendly harvest festival on Oct. 19 and 26. Owl-O-Ween welcomes costumed kids to encounters with owls, raptors and night-time creatures. Crafts, candy and other treats are part of the lineup.

boo to you too
This Halloween party takes a calming approach for kids with sensory issues.

6. Boo To You Too!

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh regularly schedules sensory-friendly programs for kids. A cool Halloween party, Boo To You Too, is planned for Oct. 27. The all-ages program is designed as a judgment-free zone for kids and adults with sensory sensitivities.

7. Drive-in Trunk or Treat 

The Dependable Drive-In programmed two new movies for its Halloween Trunk-or-Treat on Oct. 12. The family screen begins showings at dusk with the animated “Addams Family” (PG) and “Abominable” (PG). Arrive early – gates open at 4 p.m. Trunk-or-Treat begins at 5.p.m. Bring treats for the kids in this different take on the Halloween tradition. The Dependable will award great prizes for costumes and decorated cars. Special Pumpkin Funnel Cake and apple cider star among the snack bar lineup.

8. Creatures of the Night

This family-friendly Halloween series comes from the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. During Creatures of the Night, kids venture through nature reserves led by costumed nocturnal characters, such as Firefly, a Great Horned Owl or the Little Brown Bat. Each will share stories from stop to stop in this entertaining and educational event. Refreshments and treats will be offered along the way.

Creatures of the Night will take place on Oct 18 and 19 at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, Fox Chapel; Oct 25 at Succop Nature Park, Penn Township; and Oct 26 at Buffalo Creek Nature Center, Sarver. Registration is required.

Explore the spooky side of science with a day of STEM activities.

9. STEM Spooktacular Day

S.Y.STEM Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to motivating young students to pursue careers in STEM, is throwing a free event at Carnegie Library’s East Liberty branch. Explore the spooky side of science along wth Halloween-themed activities and demonstrations, prizes and giveaways, including a signed photograph from Steelers player Cam Heyward. The experiments start at 2 p.m. Oct. 26. Come in costume (mad scientist getups encouraged)!

Who time to sleep at this sleepover? The night is filled with science experiments, demonstrations, snacks and a movie.

10. Monster Madness Sleepover

The Monster Madness Sleepover at Carnegie Science Center on Oct. 25 is sure to put kids in a Halloween mood. This monster-themed night will have kids dabbling with potions and concoctions, using science to send ghosts flying into the air, and engineering the design of a new monster. The night includes a viewing of the silly and entertaining “Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit” on the Ramos Giant Screen. The evening includes late-night snacks, breakfast and free admission to the Science Center after waking up.

11. Pumpkin Patch Trolley

Why ride a wagon to the pumpkin patch when you can zip along on a trolley? The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, Pa., offers round trip rides on its historic railroad to collect the autumnal gourds. After the excursion, kids can decorate their pumpkins in the craft room, where refreshments will be served. The Pumpkin Patch Trolley is in operation on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27.

12. Punkin Chunkin

And you think your kids are messy? Imagine this glorious mess! Sarah Heinz House and SHARP Robotics will launch pumpkins across the Hartwood Acres’ amphitheater field with a full-size trebuchet! The Oct. 19 Punkin Chunkin event will include hands-on activities, games and crafts. BRGR and Hop Farm Brewing are among the food trucks and vendors joining the festivities.